[Ed. note: For the second issue of high-end independent game magazine A Profound Waste of Time, illustrator Doug John Miller, editor Caspian Whistler, and game designer Keita Takahashi put together a fold-out cover packed with references to Takahashi’s career, featuring games like Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy, and Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure.
We loved the art, so we asked Whistler to provide the full image and dig through it to point out some of the best Easter eggs, which you can find below. A Profound Waste of Time is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund reprints of its first two issues.]
Covering the second issue of APWOT was the result of months of work and preparation, and required a tremendous amount of back-and-forth to be successful. It’s filled to the brim with references to Keita Takahashi’s work and universes, but rather than spell each one out (I’ll let you discover them all for yourself), I’d like to let you look behind. the curtain on a few key areas to which we have paid particular attention.
The Prince – The Princeling the size of a pea
Can you see it? We play with the scale a lot in this picture, but it was important to everyone involved that the prince stayed small, especially compared to the other characters. It’s actually pretty easy to miss it altogether now. The fact that it was small not only was true to the source material, but meant we could have more room for landscapes and other characters on the main side of the cover. There’s a lot going on in the image already, so it was really helpful to be able to fit it in that way without obstruction.
As for finalizing the size, we just wanted to make sure it was proportionately correct next to the King of All Cosmos. He had to be small enough to be able to sit comfortably on his father’s palm, like he does in the original. Katamari Damacy when a level is completed. The prince has such an iconic design that it was almost a shame to make it so hard to see, but we made sure to see his cute face up close in the illustrations in the magazine.
Noby Noby Boy – The longest boy
We really wanted to make sure that the “big three” games that Keita is known for – Katamari, Wattam, and Noby Noby Boy – all had some representation in one way or another on the main “face” of the image (which magazine readers would see before opening the issue). When it comes to Boy, the wonderful PlayStation 3 game from 2009 Noby Noby Boy, it was like a good opportunity to do something creative.
With the cover featuring gatefolds and panoramic art, that meant we really wanted to do something interesting with these elements. Boy actually extends the entire width of the cover from one gatefold to another, with his head 600mm from the bottom half. It’s very satisfying to follow your body throughout the image, and I’m glad we had enough canvas space to show it properly! With this approach, he’s technically on the front of the post, but only a part of it. Hopefully when people see her rainbow body stretching out, they are encouraged to unfold the magazine and reveal it in its entirety.
He’s a fantastic character that we were able to have fun surrounding him with corners and text in the inside pages. We were even able to get him to eat some of the text from the interview with Keita, as he could interact with the letters in the same way in the original version.
If you follow Boy’s body across the cover to the very end, you can of course also find the Boy House next to his lower half, another reference to the original game. Most of the buildings in the image are very realistic to the characters, so it was nice to have a little bit of surreal and playful architecture as well.
Architecture – architecture everywhere
Speaking of architecture, that’s a big theme of this cover. Doug John Miller, the artist responsible for this behemoth, teaches at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture. His practice means he’s adept at 3D modeling, and actually rendered the entire cover in 3D software traditionally used in the profession (Rhino 3D) before drawing his hand-drawn line art over it. . Here you can see an early version of the cover image when we were still thinking about things in August 2019. If you look closely you can see that the King of All Cosmos was initially going to be much taller than ‘it is not now.
We thought of a world where Keita was in charge and what a city designed by him could look like. We also reflected on the theme of utopias and solarpunk visions of the future. As a result, we decided that the cityscape should not only be upbeat and lush, but also a blend of architecture and visual influences from Keita’s home in Japan and where he currently resides in San Francisco. Wattam is a game that is essentially about bringing the world together, so it seemed appropriate to reflect Keita’s vision in this way.
Keita himself was adamant that there must be a lot of vegetation in the city. One of the first comments he wrote at the start with these renderings was simply: “Oh that looks cool. A town in Keita needs more trees, haha.
Royal gifts – cosmic gifts
Having so many densely placed buildings meant it was easy to hide a lot of fun little touches among them. Throughout the cover there are four hidden royal gifts, in reference to how you would unlock various cosmetics in the original. Katamari. It can be surprisingly difficult to find them all.
Of course, it’s not just the gifts that are hidden in this art, as there are references to Keita’s work beyond that as well. Katamari, Noby Noby Boy, and over 50s Wattam scattered characters!
Crankin is a character from a game that is not quite released yet (for the next Playdate console), Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure. We thought it would be fun to mimic the Playdate screen somehow making it inferior in fidelity. Doug decided to render it entirely on a 2D plan, which came out really well.
If you look closely, you might also find a small cube with a face on it. This character is a reference to World, an AR Keita game made with Funomena for tango technology. In fact, you would scan your surrounding environment to transform it into an interactive AR playground using this friendly cubic character.
I know I said we would look beyond the “main” console games, but I also want to especially thank the family of the original. Katamari Damacy, who climbed this huge skyscraper to enjoy the view before being blinded.
I’ve only scratched the surface here in terms of the work done for this cover. I could go on for centuries, but I think there has been more than enough gossip on my part for an article.
It was a massive undertaking, so I want to take this opportunity to once again thank Bandai Namco, Keita Takahashi, Funomena, Doug John Miller and everyone who made this possible. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to work on something as ambitious and detailed as this image again, but I’m very proud of the end result and grateful for the opportunity.